The newspaper industry has done a lot of griping about the loss of their business model, but perhaps that has more to do with the loss of their credibility than with new technology. The latest survey on news media from Pew Research shows that Americans have the lowest opinion of the mainstream media in the entire time that Pew has polled on the subject. And now Democrats are almost as likely as Republicans to complain about bias in news reporting:
The public’s assessment of the accuracy of news stories is now at its lowest level in more than two decades of Pew Research surveys, and Americans’ views of media bias and independence now match previous lows.
Just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate. In the initial survey in this series about the news media’s performance in 1985, 55% said news stories were accurate while 34% said they were inaccurate. That percentage had fallen sharply by the late 1990s and has remained low over the last decade.
Similarly, only about a quarter (26%) now say that news organizations are careful that their reporting is not politically biased, compared with 60% who say news organizations are politically biased. And the percentages saying that news organizations are independent of powerful people and organizations (20%) or are willing to admit their mistakes (21%) now also match all-time lows.
Republicans continue to be highly critical of the news media in nearly all respects. However, much of the growth in negative attitudes toward the news media over the last two years is driven by increasingly unfavorable evaluations by Democrats. On several measures, Democratic criticism of the news media has grown by double-digits since 2007. Today, most Democrats (59%) say that the reports of news organizations are often inaccurate; just 43% said this two years ago. Democrats are also now more likely than they were in 2007 to identify favoritism in the media: Two-thirds (67%) say the press tends to favor one side rather than to treat all sides fairly, up from 54%. And while just a third of Democrats (33%) say news organizations are “too critical of America,” that reflects a 10-point increase since 2007.
Wow. When you see a ten-point increase among Democrats in complaining that the media has become too critical of the US, you’re spotted a real trend. As for the rest of the higher numbers among Democrats, that could be a natural result of having a Democrat in the White House. The media has to focus on Barack Obama and his policies. Instead of focusing on his happy-talk speeches in the campaign, they are now having to report the lack of effect of his speeches as President, and the increasing unemployment and the big deficit spending from Obama and a Democratic Congress. They’re not going to like that when they hear it.
Pew also polls on each of the major national media organs. Surprisingly, CNN fares best, as even a plurality of Republicans view it favorably. Perhaps just as surprisingly, Fox News — which has been the subject of far-Left derision for years — comes in a close second, with a plurality of Democrats approving of their performance. In the aggregate, though, broadcast network news does best with 64% favorable, and majorities of both Republicans and Democrats approving.
To no one’s surprise, the New York Times fares worst. Only 29% give the paper a favorable rating, with Republicans going 2-1 unfavorable (31%-16%), much worse than the statistical tie the GOP gives on MSNBC (35%-34% unfavorable). Independents, which give all other outlets wide pluralities or majorities for positive assessments, only give the Paper of Record a wan 29%-18% plurality.
The net result? A terrible decline in credibility on news reports. In 1985, 55% of the American people had confidence in the mainstream media to get the facts straight; now it’s merely 29%. Now, 63% say their reports are “often inaccurate,” up from 34% in 1985. Small wonder that the mainstream media now struggle to keep readers and viewers.